Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mentoring, Meetings, and Student Teachers...OH MY!

I usually don't do posts that don't involve something I have done in my classroom but this post just had to happen.  It's venting/reflecting time...My absence from blogging makes me upset, but with everything going on this school year I just haven't found the time to sit down and write a post.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who has been having a CRAZY school year this year? Any one?

I started this school year off taking on WAY, WAY to many responsibilities.  I had agreed to take on a student teacher this year, mentor one of my buildings new teachers, present at conferences (Raising Student Achievement was yesterday and it was so much fun!!), be the technical director for our theatre program, be a technology/differentiation coach for my building, and be a part of my Districts Improvement Team.  I think I have also attended what has felt like 500+ meetings in the past two months.

To put the cherry on the cake, pie, or sundae (which ever you may prefer) I found out in September I will be expecting my first child in May! Clearly this was a surprise, but never the less has been an exiting journey so far.

Do I feel over worked? YES... Do I feel like I never have a free moment to myself? YES... Do I always feel weeks behind with work? YES... Do I still enjoy what I do?  YES!

Why as teachers do we take on so many extra responsibilities? Why is it so hard for us to let some of them go?

I have come to the decision that I am going to let some of my extra responsibilities go next year and focus on my classes, students, new baby, blogging, and life.  Did it really take me getting pregnant to realize that at times I feel like a hamster running in a wheel and that for the past 7 years I haven't had much of a life other than work?   Yes it did, and I'm going to welcome the change next year with open arms :)

I'm interested in hearing how your year is going.  Please make me feel like I'm not the only one this is happening too!

Sunday, September 8, 2013


It has been a long time since I've written a post that I hope I still have readers?  I have so many posts to write to wrap up last school year. Hopefully I can get them all done in the next week or two, because I have so many exciting new things about THIS school year to report on! (We just finished week 3 of the 2013-2014 school year)

Mid year last year we did transformations in Geometry, but since I know it's a huge portion of CCSS for Geometry this year, I thought I would write about what we did since many are starting this school year off with it.

This page of our Geometry ISN covered Reflections, Rotations, and Translations.  The left page went over what each of them meant and had an example.

The right side had the definitions along with a practice problem for each type.

The students easily caught on to Reflections and Translations, but had a more difficult time with Rotations.  To get students to understand how rotations work and why a shape ends in the position it does took some time.
To help them see how shapes rotate I gave them the graph paper in the pictures and we drew different shapes on each graph.  I then gave them each a blank transparency and Vis-A-Vis marker.  Students placed the transparency over their graph paper, and traced the shape with the Vis-A-Vis marker. They would put their finger on the point of rotation and then rotate the transparency the correct number of degrees and in the correct direction.  The outline on the transparency shows the students where the shape will end up.  Then they would draw the shape on the graph paper.  After doing the four on the page, they felt a lot more comfortable with rotations.  Some no longer needed the transparency to do the work, while others relied on it a little longer.  By the end they were doing rotations without any problems.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Station Activities

At the end of each year I like to think about what worked and what didn't work for my students so I can improve for next year.  Since I'm the only Special Education Math and Science teacher for my building/district, I have the same kids for 3-4 years.  So reflecting back really helps because I can see the improvement in my students and myself from one year to the next.

So what I have found out about this past school year is that my students absolutely LOVE their ISN and Station Activities.  There are many things they enjoyed about this year but those are their most favorite, and are the most effective.  

Here is how I create my station activities.  At the end of each day I give my students an exit ticket, and the exit tickets are based on the current unit objectives.  Sometimes if I know my students will need to use a previously taught skills I will incorporate that into the exit tickets as well.  These formative assessments allow me to see where each of my students are at; what they know and what they don't know.  Based off of that information I create my station activities.  

For this example we were just starting to work on writing equations in slope intercept form and some of objectives were:

I can calculate the slope given a graph, table, or two points.  
I can determine the slope and y-intercept of a line given the graph of a line.
I can write an equation in slope intercept form given the slope and y-intercept.

My students were given the exit ticket after we went over the ISN pages and did some whole group practice.  When they were finished I checked them to see which problems they got right/wrong.  For this class I had students who got problems incorrect from each objective, so I created stations based on each objective.  

This time I assigned them specific stations they had to complete based on the problems they got wrong from the exit ticket.  If there was time they could go back and do the other stations for practice.  Other times I have had stations for a test review and each table had an activity based on each of the unit objectives.  When I do this they are expected to finish all of the stations.

The main reasons why I like stations is because they get the students up and moving around the room, it allows me to work with individual students, and lastly they get excited because it isn't just a boring worksheet.

**I used Expo Neon Dry Erase Markers on my black lab tables, they wipe away easily with a wet rag. If you don't have black tables you can use regular colored Expo Dry Erase Markers on tables or student desks.**  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Angle Sum Theorem

I've taught Angle Sum Theorem in the past but I felt as though my students didn't truly understand what it means or how it actually works.  They can tell you that all angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees, but if you ask them how do you know it's true they couldn't give you a good reason.  I usually get the response of "because you told us it does".  UGH!  Not the response I'm looking for.

This year I was determined to find a way that would help them understand just how it worked, and I came across these two different methods.  I used BOTH.

The first method is where you give students three different triangles: Equilateral, Scalene, and Isosceles.  They color each of the angles in the triangle a different color and rip off the angles.  Then they have to join all three angles, and in the end they form a straight line which they know measures 180 degrees.

The second method we used is where each student again is given three different triangles: Equilateral, Scalene, and Isosceles.  They again color each of the angles in the triangle a different color.  They start off by folding the triangle to create an altitude. Then the top angle is folded down to the point where the altitude and base meet.  The two other angles fold in, showing all three angles lined up creating a straight line.

They liked the folding method because when they glued them into their ISN they were able to fold and unfold the triangle as many times as they want.  The ones that were ripped could only be done the one time.

Here are the left pages when they are finished.  
Unfolded Triangles
Folded Triangles

On the right side of their notebook we worked out several different types of problems involving the angle sum theorem.  We also revisited supplementary angles, vertical angles, as well as the different types of triangles and their characteristics.

Overall this page so far has probably been their favorite.  I succeeded in getting them to understand why the angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees, and I no longer get answers of "because that's what you said".

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Naming Triangles

We moved into Triangles in Geometry class and we began by naming them, using both the name based on their sides as well as the name based on their angle measures.

The students were given a sheet that contained all 9 triangles.  They had to cut them out and then sort them into groups based on their similarities.  At this time they were not given any of the names.  Students had to explain why they grouped certain triangles together.  They were also told that one triangle could not fit into more than one group.  This proved to be a challenge for some of them, but after awhile they were able to figure it out.

Everyone came up with that we could group them based on their sides, or by the types of angles.  We decided as a whole class to glue them into our ISN by groups based on their sides.

We went through the six different names for triangles and what the characteristics were for each of them.  After that they were asked to go back and name each yellow triangle using two names.

When they were done they were given this half sheet of practice and asked to go through it.  I had them start off on their own, only working through the first three at the top.  After that we went over them and I had them work in pairs for the bottom section.

Many of my students used different colored highlighters to make each of the triangles in questions #1-5 stand out so they knew which ones to focus on.

Under this page is where my students wrote down the six different triangles: acute, right, obtuse, equilateral, isosceles, and scalene.  They also were asked to summarize the characteristics of each one.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Characteristics of Trapezoids

When we covered characteristics of trapezoids I wanted to make our ISN page different than the rest that we have done.  I looked around at other teacher's blogs to see what kind of cool ideas they were doing and I saw a post that had a page with a pocket on it.  I LOVE the pocket idea!

<~This is what our page looked like when it was completed.  We covered the three different kinds of trapezoids: Isosceles, Right and Scalene.

To make the pocket I gave students a regular size index card that we taped on three sides.  To make the cards the students cut out the green boxes and glued those onto the regular size index cards as well.

Each type of trapezoid got their own card, which we colored equal angles the same color and identified characteristics about their sides.

I had the students use protractors to measure each of the angles in the trapezoids to determine which ones were equal to each other and then color them.  After that we wrote the characteristics of the angles down under the characteristics section. We then began talking about the sides, some students needed to use rulers to measure the lengths because visually they weren't sure which ones were equal.

We then started discussing what equations that we could come up with for each of the trapezoids.   What we came up with we wrote under the equations section.

They then were given a green sheet that had problems involving trapezoids on them.  Students had to cut them out, then decide which problem belonged with which type of trapezoid.

Once they match up the problem with the type of trapezoid they glued them onto the back of the card.   Using the characteristics and equations they discovered on the front, they had to solve the problems on the back.

When they were finished we went through them together and they were given their practice for the right page.

Here is their practice page on the right. ~>

Friday, April 5, 2013


So I thought over spring break I would catch up on all of my blogging, find cool new activities to do with my math students, and create some new ISN pages.  Well needless to say that never happened...

We covered Quadrilaterals in Geometry class, however we only went with regular quadrilaterals for the time being.

My students love charts, and when I say love I really mean LOVE!!  It's weird how excited they can get about a chart, but whatever will make them happy.  So to cover the characteristics of the different types of regular quadrilaterals I had my students fill in the following chart.

We started off drawing a picture of each shape and from there the students told me what to write in both the "Angles" and "Sides" boxes.  It turned into a whole class discussion where all I did was fill in my chart as they told me what to put in it.

My students will admit that they are not the best artists (frankly neither am I ), so made these shapes on the computer for them to cut out and tape into their notebooks.  Students used rulers and protractors to help them figure out what angles and sides were congruent. As they discovered characteristics of the quadrilaterals as a class we wrote the information below and to the side of each of the shapes.  We did go through in the beginning identifying each of the shapes by name, then color coding their different characteristics (color chart at the top) that they had discovered through their exploration of the 6 quadrilaterals.

**Update: Both pages have been change to reflect the correct information for Kite**

Friday, March 1, 2013

Functions Continued...

I love my students and wouldn't change them for the world, but so often they have a hard time with math that has multiple steps.

We were working on function and they needed practice, but not just sit at their desks and work on a worksheet practice.  So I decided to make these huge posters, one poster for each of the three steps for graphing a function.  

This activity got my students up and moving around the room while still working on practice.  The few feet between each step made a big difference.  It gave them time to stop thinking about what they just did and focus on what they are to do next.  To them it made each problem seem like three easy tasks.

I had three sets of these posters and even though it was only three problems worth of practice they got each of them correct.

At the end of the hour I gave them an exit ticket over these types of problems and found that most of my students were ready to move on the next day.  I did have to work with one student who has been struggling all year, but this activity gave me the time to do just that.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Function Machines

It's been awhile and I'm so far behind in my blogging.  So here we go...

Before winter break we talked about functions.  For many of my students this year is the first time they have seen anything Algebra so we keep it pretty simple.  I started off talking about a Function Machine, I like to use a pop machine as my class example.  We talk about how if we push the Pepsi button we should get a Pepsi out, but if we push the Pepsi button and a Mt. Dew pops out then our machine doesn't function properly.  I went into how for every input you have exactly one output.  Many of them understood after the pop machine example.

I gave students this chart to put in their ISN.  The top box was Graphing Functions From a Table.  I taught them how to create an XY table and how the values create points that we put onto a graph.  Then we found a few extra points that were on the line but not in our table.

We then moved onto Graphing a Function.  I gave them y = 2x - 1 and we decided we would use the values -1, 0, 1, and 2 for X.  The students plugged the values into the equation and solved for Y.  Then graphed the points.  I again made them find some extra points that were on the line but not in our graph.

Doing the extra points helped my students see that the line does not stop just because we ran out of points to graph.

We then moved on to their practice.

We defined the terms Domain and Range, each one getting their own color.  After we defined them we went back to the left side of our notebook and highlighted which values represented the Domain, and which represented the Range.

I then gave them two functions which they had to give values for x and plug them in to find the y.  After they were done they had to graph their points and then find a few that were not in their chart.  Again they lighted the Domain and Range Values.

As an activity I asked my students to create their own function machine.  It gave them time to be creative, though this class is not at all creative so many of them just drew boxes as their machines.

They were asked to create an equation, but not draw it on their page.  They had to create the XY Table, filling in both sets of values.  The students then went around and had to figure out what everyones equation was.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Love of Concept Maps

The Whole Concept Map
I have a secret love for concept mapping.  Not only do I enjoy making them but I truly enjoy watching a class of students all create different concept maps on the exact same topic.  It's so interesting to see how each individual interprets a broad topic in such different ways.  The best part about it is that since it is how a person makes sense of a topic, they aren't done incorrectly....well for the most part.
Top Left

Concept mapping is generally done with information in boxes or circles connected by lines that are labeled.  This type of activity is easily done in both Science and Social Studies classes, I usually use them in the Science classes
that I teach.  However, this year I decided to have my basic math kids concept map our entire Fractions Unit.

Now for all of my basic math students this is the first time they had ever done a concept map, and many of them struggled through it and they came out a mess.  Which for me is GREAT!  They are suppose to be messy.
Bottom Left

These are pictures of the one I had created.  I will update this post later with some student created concept maps, but some were hard to read/understand in person, and it was way worse in a picture.

In the past I have always done them on paper, and many times I still do.  I enjoy hanging them up around my room and having students keep adding to it each day.

Two years ago I got a classroom set of netbook computers and we were asked to implement them into our classrooms as much as possible.  I started off by taking something I already do in my classroom and do it on the computer instead.
Concept mapping was the first thing I started with.

Top Right
There are many different concept mapping tools out there, many of them free!  The few that I have used in my room and that my students enjoy are Concept Board, Popplet, and Mindomo.

My students prefer those three over any of the others because they can insert pictures into them.  Many of the concept mapping/mind mapping tools out there don't allow you to put pictures into them.   These three are also extremely easy to use.  Also some of them limit how many maps you can make with a free account.  After awhile a student can delete their old ones but mine like to keep theirs.

Bottom Right
Do you concept map/mind map in your classroom?  If so how do you feel about them?  How about your students?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Coordinate Plane

Before winter break I introduced the Coordinate Plane to my Algebra class.  Let's just say working with a number line was challenging enough for a few of my students but now we combined two number lines together to form a Coordinate Plane was pretty unheard of by some of them.  Trying to explain this to a few of them resulted in me getting looks like I had grew horns and shot fire out of my mouth.  We pushed through and in the end I became Ms. O again.

 Students were given a double sided page where they cut on the dotted lines and folded on the solid ones.  It created a four flap foldable where each flap was one of the four quadrants.  I added the font so all they had to do was color it in.

When you open up each of the flaps it reveals that quadrant on a coordinate plane.  On the inside of the flap is where students filled out information about that specific quadrant.

In the middle was grid paper where the students created the two number lines and labeled the different parts of the coordinate plane. We then practiced plotting and naming points in each of the quadrants.

For the right side of their notebooks I gave them two graphs, one blank and one with points.  The top graph (blank) is where I gave them points and they had to plot them.  The bottom graph (with points) is where the students had to practice naming them.

For homework that night I have them those fun sheets where they plot the points and it forms animals or easily recognizable objects.  The kids loved these because they knew right way if they did it right or not.  I found a few on MathCrush.
It was pretty interesting to see what some of my students came up with when they returned.  A few had some deformed fish or birds, so I knew they needed more practice but everyone else knew what to do and was ready to move on.

Here are the links to the foldable, it's two pages that you print off double sided.  Everything lines up correctly.  Enjoy!

Coordinate Plane Interior
Coordinate Plane Exterior
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